Windows 10 SSH vs. PuTTY: Time to Switch Your Remote Access Client?
One of the most common methods to communicate between computers, particularly Linux machines and web servers, is SSH. When it comes to establishing this sort of communication in Windows, the default option has been to install PuTTY.
Thanks to the Windows PowerShell, however, you may not need PuTTY anymore. Let’s take a look at how to set up SSH access in Windows 10, and whether the new tools can supplant PuTTY.
How to Install SSH in Windows 10 (Quick)
Installing SSH functionality to the Windows 10 PowerShell is straightforward enough, but the menu options for it are somewhat hidden. Here’s what you’ll need to do:
- Open Settings.
- View the Apps
- Go to the Manage optional features
- Click Add a feature.
- Select OpenSSH Client.
- Wait, then reboot.
Once this is done, you can establish SSH connections with other, compatible computers. If an SSH server has been installed and configured on the remote machine, a connection can be made.
That’s the overview. Here are the details.
How to Install SSH in Windows 10 (Detailed)
Windows 10’s PowerShell implementation of SSH is a version of the OpenSSH project. You can find the project page on GitHub.
You should find that SSH is already installed on your Windows 10 computer (it was included in the April 2018 update), but if not, it can be easily added.
To check, open the Power User menu (right-click Start, or Windows key + X) and select Windows PowerShell. Here, input the command “ssh”. If SSH is not yet installed, you’ll see a screen like this:
Fixing this is easy enough. Press Windows key + I to open the Settings view, then go to Apps and look for Manage optional features. Click this, then look for an entry labelled “OpenSSH”.
If you can’t see it, click Add a feature then scroll down until you see OpenSSH Client. Click to expand the item and view the description.
When you’re ready, click Install to add it to your PC. A few moments later, the new SSH client for Windows PowerShell will be installed. It’s worth rebooting Windows to ensure the app is correctly installed.
A Note on the SSH Server App
It’s worth highlighting the fact that you can also install an SSH server. While it is unlikely that Microsoft will enable any form of universal remote administration over SSH, having it as an option is nevertheless useful.
To install this, repeat the above steps, selecting OpenSSH Server.
Using SSH in Windows PowerShell
Once SSH is installed and working, you can use it to communicate with another computer. For instance, you might use it to access a Raspberry Pi (one of several remote options for that little computer).
Usage is simple. In the PowerShell, enter the ssh command, followed by the username for an account on the remote device, and its IP address.
For instance, to connect to my Raspberry Pi box running RetroPie, I used:
At this point, the remote device should prompt you to accept a secure key. Type Yes to agree to this, then at the prompt, enter the password for the username you used.
Moments later, you’ll be connected to the remote Linux device, ready to perform whatever tasks you need.
PowerShell’s SSH Features vs. PuTTY
PuTTY has long been the preferred choice for SSH on Windows. Whether controlling web servers, accessing Internet of Things devices or remotely administering a Linux PC, it’s a lightweight, easy to use app.
One of the reasons for PuTTY’s endurance is its wide selection of features. So, can SSH on Windows PowerShell compete with PuTTY?
Well, in terms of providing SSH functionality, yes it can. You can find out how to use some of the extended features of SSH on Windows 10 by entering the ssh command:
The resulting list of options outlines the features. For example, you can specify a port:
ssh [username]@[hostname] -p [port]
The possibilities are good!
However, it’s still not PuTTY. While you can bind an address with OpenSSH on Windows, you’re limited by the number of addresses you can save.
There is a reason why PuTTY remains popular. Not only does it allow you to save (and name) your connections, the app also supports connections over Telnet, Serial, and other protocols. PuTTY’s appearance is also configurable, can it be quickly launched from the desktop. All in all, PuTTY is a solid utility that handles pretty much anything that you can throw at it.
Why SSH When You Can Use Linux?
While remote controlling Linux over SSH might be vital, you may not even need SSH. Windows 10 now features a Linux subsystem and a Bash-like command prompt.
This means that you can easily input Linux commands and receive realistic responses. While it might not be ideal for all scenarios, if you need Linux access for college or training purposes, and don’t have SSH access (regardless of app) to a Linux device, this might be ideal.
Of course, this isn’t the only option. If you need to practice Bash commands in Windows, you can always set up a virtual machine. Simply install a Linux distribution into this and (hardware permitting) you have a Linux OS ready to use.
Is It Time to Abandon PuTTY on Windows 10?
SSH is easy to use in Windows 10’s PowerShell. However, its lack of features, along with requiring a few more clicks to load up, mean you might prefer to stick with PuTTY. Either way, the fact that Windows 10 has two good options for SSH is worth celebrating.
Want more SSH options for Windows? Our roundup of SSH tools for Windows will tell you about the alternatives.